Of all of Fear Factory's albums, their latest, "Transgression", seems to divide fans the most. Having bought Transgression from the official online store, I received it a day early and gave it a listen as soon as I saw it had arrived.
The album explodes with the fantastic opener "540,000 Degrees Fahrenheit", in which Burton solemnly sings (and occasionally yells) about the tragedies nuclear weapons have inflicted, and may inflict again in the future. The next track, "Transgression", switches the vocal formula of the first by consisting mostly of screaming and only briefly implementing singing at certain parts. The third track, "Spinal Compression," completely does away with singing, making it all the more violent. The fourth track "Contagion," takes the more traditional Fear Factory route by implementing yelling in the verses and saving singing exclusively for the chorus. When the fifth, and probably my favorite, track rolls around ("Empty Vision") the vocal formula of "540,000 Degrees Fahrenheit" returns with most of the song being sung, rather than screamed.
The music in each of these tracks is pretty traditional for Fear Factory - each song including machine gun guitars and the powerful thump of bass drums complementing them. Despite this traditional sound, however, there's a certain freshness to the songs that was largely absent from Archetype.
When the sixth track, "Echo of My Scream," begins to make its way through the speakers, problems with many Fear Factory fans ensue. "Echo of My Scream" is no doubt a large departure from the first five tracks, considering it's a slow and soft ballad complete with a strings section. Personally, I find the song to be moving. The distortion of Burton's vocals gives them a quivering quality, adding a sense of desperation. What I don't understand is how so many Fear Factory fans can be surprised by this song. Doesn't anyone remember Timelessness?
The next song, "Supernova", like "Echo of My Scream," has also done its fair share of angering fans. Unarguably, "Supernova" is the poppiest song that Fear Factory has ever done, with it including an extremely upbeat and catchy chorus. While "Supernova" surprised me when I first heard it, I didn't think it was a bad song by any means. I only wish that every pop song could be as good as it is.
The eigth track, "New Promise," starts out soft and slow, and the first time I heard it, I was expecting another "Echo of My Scream." But after a minute the song erupts into typical Fear Factory territory, although the softer content of the song may not mesh with some people. I, for one, find it to be a kick ass song that still manages to be moving.
Next on the track list is a cover of U2's "I Will Follow," which, like some of the other tracks that have already been discussed, was a surprise and disappointment to quite a few fans. I haven't heard the original track, but from what I hear Fear Factory's version is quite faithful. And just like all of the other "controversial" songs on this album, I like this one, too, which makes perfect sense considering I tend to like U2's work anyway.
The next song, another cover, is "Millenium," originally performed by Killing Joke. I'm a fan of Killing Joke, but I've only heard part of the original "Millenium," and from what I can tell Fear Factory's rendition of it is faithful. Just as I like their U2 cover, I like this one as well.
The last song on the album is "Moment of Impact," a brutally heavy track about death that, like "Spinal Compression," doesn't feature any of Burton's clean vocals. The ending is especially cool when Burton's vocals slowly fade out and then briefly explode again at full volume to savagely finish the track.
Musically, most of the songs on "Trangression" are typical of Fear Factory, but as I stated early, their's a certain freshness amid the familiarity. As for the songs that do deviate from the Fear Factory musical standard, I applaud the band for stepping outside of the box and still coming up with some great songs. The only problem I have with the music on this album is that the volume of the bass is often too low.
For the most part, the lyrics featured on "Transgression" are well written, although some do come off as generic. Burton's amazing vocal presentation is able to amend this problem when it does occur, however.
If there's one thing that I find truly disappointing about this album, it's that 2 out of 11 songs are covers. I'm also not quite sure why Fear Factory would release cover tracks that are so faithful to the originals. Sure, the covers are good, but what's the point of covering a track if you're not going to make interesting changes?
Aside from the shortage of Fear Factory tracks on the album and some lyrical missteps, "Transgression" is a heavy and rocking cd that's not afraid to show a softer side at times.
My Grade: 4.5/5
A Note to the Fans:
I can certainly see why some people wouldn't like this album. However, I can't understand why a fan would bash a band they like just because they're writing different material. You may not like what a band is doing, but you should at least respect their decisions to do what they want to - if you're a real fan. I think it's safe to say that Fear Factory isn't looking for a way to earn more money, but that their decisions stem from their actual artistic wants.
So, to the fans who can only complain and bash: Grow up.